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Colorado's gay marriage ban was struck down by a state judge on Wednesday, but the ruling has been stayed to allow for an appeal.
Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, violating constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. The Denver Post reports that this ruling came weeks after a Boulder County clerk began issuing more than 100 marriage licenses, in defiance of state law, in late June.
What does this ruling mean for Colorado's same-sex couples?
As of July 10, 2014, same-sex marriage is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. In many of the states that do not currently allow marriage, either a state or federal court challenge is pending. Many successful challenges have been made in federal court, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Windsor last year.
However, some successful challenges have been made in state courts too. Colorado's neighbor to the south, New Mexico, affirmed gays' rights to marry by a decision of the state's Supreme Court. Because the U.S. Supreme Court is the controlling source of precedent for both state and federal courts, a challenge to this amendment using the ruling in Windsor could be made in either state or federal court.
According to the Post, a federal lawsuit was also filed last week to challenge Colorado's same-sex marriage ban, but Judge Crabtree, in state court, was the first to act.
Like many judges before him, Judge Crabtree was unconvinced that Colorado's ban on gay marriage was supported by anything more than animus. In his ruling he notes that the proposed state interest in encouraging procreation is "merely a pretext for discriminating against same-sex marriages."
A law which discriminates against a class of persons cannot be upheld unless it has a legitimate interest. Simply disliking gays or same-sex couples is not a legitimate interest, the U.S. Supreme Court has held.
Despite finding the law unconstitutional, Judge Crabtree ruled that same-sex marriages in Colorado would have to wait until the decision was appealed; the same was true in Utah despite a recent federal appellate court ruling which agreed the law was unconstitutional.
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